CHESTERFIELD, (WRIC) – John Harrington is a member of the Helping Addicts Recover Progressively program, known as HARP, and has years of experience working in the roofing industry — but was never able to earn his certification until now.

Through the Chesterfield County Jail’s partnership with the country’s leading roofing manufacturers, Harrington and several other inmates in the county now have that opportunity.

“I feel like I’m at home. So, you know, it kind of took me outside of jail for a little while, and to be able to sit back and help these guys and train them, too.” said Harrington. “They’re my brothers. You know, we’ve all come from the same struggle.”

A certificate program was created by the GAF Roofing Academy to give people the hands-on experience and fundamental skills required for an entry-level position in the roofing trade. When the GAF Academy locates roofing contractors with open positions, they will find certified candidates to fill them.

“I think whoever hires these folks is going to get some great employees,” said Karl Leonard, HARP founder and Chesterfield County Sheriff. “They’ll be some of the most dedicated, committed employees you’ll have in your organization.”

Chesterfield County Jail is Virginia’s first correctional facility to implement this program, and the inmates who were chosen had to have an interest in the field, be expected to be released from prison within a 90-day window and — most importantly — be trustworthy. 

“The more we can get out there, the more we can help people leaving our prisons and our jails and the more we can get them gainfully employed, the less we’re going to have of that recidivism and revolving door,” said Sheriff Leonard. 

Roderick Colvin, GAF Roofing Academy Program Relationship Specialist, said he also comes from an background of incarceration and recognizes a part of himself in the HARP inmates. 

“I see the excitement of these individuals have a commonality and a familiarity that I can line up with,” said Colvin. “They’ve been doing a tremendous, fabulous job at learning these skills and what’s fortunate is that we have roofing contractors waiting to hire these individuals.”

With these trade skills under their belts, HARP inmates will be able to re-enter society and take advantage of potential career possibilities.